The best way to spot if extra-virgin olive oil is not fake, which is to say not mislabeled, adulterated, or flat-out rancid—is to taste it. But, that not easy to do when you are in the grocery store. You cannott just open bottles and start sampling.
Still, there are things you should know and do to avoid buying fake olive oil or, at the least, sorely disappointed. Below are the things you should check before you buy a bottle.
5 Ways to Tell If Your Olive Oil Is Fake:
1. Check for a “Harvest Date” and a Mill Name or Estate
The more specifics there is, the better. “Typically, only the better oils will have a ‘harvest date or ‘pressed on’.
If a label calls out the name of the estate, producer, or the variety of olive used, then is it very likely genuine.
Also, if you see the free fatty acidity level, or FFA, listed (which you probably will not know with mass-market brands), that iss a great sign. Typically, only high-quality producers bother listing it. An excellent olive oil will have an FFA of 0.2% or lower.
2. Check How It is Bottled
It is important for olive oil to be stored using a dark colored glass, usually green or brown, to protect it from possible degradation and UV light.
If it is in a clear glass or plastic container, you should put it back on the shelf. Also, take note of the location where the olive oil is displayed in the store.
If the aisle is exposed to high levels of natural sunlight, or is excessively hot, then it is much better to shop for your olive oil at a different store.
3. Check the Price
The price of the olive oil is not a guarantee of quality, but choosing the cheapest bottle on the shelf can usually means you are getting what you pay for, which is cheap oil.
When you purchase a product from the other side of the world, higher cost for transportation is involved. If the bottle of olive oil that is available at your supermarket contains the same price as that bottle of corn oil, it likely contains very similar ingredients.
4. Check the Label for Seal of Approval
Check the label for a seal of approval from the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC).
IOOC has published testing methods to find out if there are extraneous oils combined with olive. If it’s not pure, then it’s not certified.
COOC is responsible for regulating the marketing of California olive oils as extra virgin and from olives grown in California. Details are not known as to whether it either would certify a producer who mixes other oils with olive, but a seal will let you know that at least it is extra virgin, which is the highest grade.
5. Don’t Buy Anything That Does Not Say “EXTRA-VIRGIN” on the Label
This phrase alone is not a guarantee, but without it, “you are always going to get a low-quality product”.
Do not buy anything labeled “virgin,” “pure,”, “light,” or just “olive oil.” You will know for sure that it’s been refined, if the label says any of these terms.
Extra-virgin is an indication that it comes from the very first pressing of each season’s olives. This means that it is luminescent green, pure, and should have an almost peppery, but powerful flavor.